It’s 2 AM, and you’re sound asleep.
Suddenly, a freight train of noise enters your bedroom, and you’re jolted awake by the blaring of music.
It’s your phone sounding off without your permission again.
The thing is you know your phone was on silent.
How could this have happened?
It can be annoying, embarrassing, or downright frightening when your phone plays audio unexpectedly.
If you find yourself in this situation, read on for some potential causes and fixes.
Why Is My Phone Playing Music? (15 Causes, Fixes)
1. Your Phone Thinks Headphones Are Plugged In
Some of the most common issues with errant music involve headphones and other external playback devices.
Switching back and forth between headphone states can confuse the phone’s operating system or individual music apps.
If your phone has a physical headphone jack, check to see if it’s dirty or clogged with debris.
If it is, the phone might sometimes think headphones are connected even though there’s nothing there.
In some phone and app configurations, music can automatically start playing when the phone senses an external audio device.
To remedy this, try using a toothpick to clean out lint and debris from the jack.
Avoid using something hard or sharp that might damage the phone.
If it’s really dirty, you can try compressed air or a swab with a small amount of rubbing alcohol.
We recommend shutting off the phone before performing any kind of deep clean.
2. You Do Have Headphones Plugged In
If you do have headphones plugged in, random music playback is a definite possibility since some types of headphones can control playback, usually with a button somewhere on the cord or on the earbuds or headphones themselves.
If music is playing unexpectedly with headphones plugged in, it could mean that something is rubbing against the playback controls, causing the button to depress.
The button itself could be damaged, causing a short which sends random playback signals to the phone.
Another possibility is the same as above: your headphone jack is dirty, so the connection from the headphones to the jack is not secure.
As a result, the headphones could lose and regain connection, triggering music playback.
3. Your Phone Is Connected To A Bluetooth Device
Similar to wired headphones, Bluetooth listening devices can also trigger unexpected playback.
This can happen for a myriad of reasons.
Just like some wired headphones have audio controls, most Bluetooth playback devices have audio controls as well.
If the pairing connection is flaky because of interference, low battery, or your phone is just too far away, you can experience weird audio issues.
As the phone attempts to connect and reconnect to the Bluetooth device, it’s not uncommon for music to continue or resume playing audio.
Other devices, especially smartphone-enabled car stereos incorporating Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto, have baked-in settings to automatically play music when a device is connected.
If you have paired your phone to the stereo before, the phone might connect whenever the device is on and your phone is within range.
Some of these Bluetooth accessories have settings you can adjust if you want to prevent automatic playback.
Others do not.
If not, and you want to prevent music from starting on its own, your best bet is to turn off Bluetooth until you’re ready to connect to the device.
On the flip side, some phone apps have a setting for automatic playback that you can toggle on and off.
For example, the Samsung Music app has a setting to “Start playback when devices connect.”
The YouTube Music app, the successor to Google Play Music, has a similar setting: “Allow external devices to start playback.”
Either one of these settings can be disabled on Android phones directly in the app.
Other devices that might trigger unexpected audio include smart watches, smart speakers, and AirPods.
If any of these items are paired with your phone, consider disabling Bluetooth temporarily to see if doing so resolves the problem.
If so, you know one of these devices is probably the source of the problem.
4. A Music App Is Running In The Background
Another possible reason your phone might be playing music is a stray music app running in the background.
Usually, modern smartphone operating systems do a good job of managing running apps, but in general, the desired mode for music apps is to continue playing when a user switches to another app.
Therefore, you could listen to the latest offering from Dashboard Confessional on Spotify while playing Wordle at the same time.
Even if you pause the music but leave the app running in the background, there’s always the potential that the operating system might get confused and resume playback.
This can be unnerving if you’re not expecting audio to start blaring through your phone.
If you suspect that a background app might be the culprit, make sure to stop running all music apps like Spotify and Pandora when you are not using them.
5. An Open Tab In Your Web Browser
Chrome or Safari on your mobile phone can suffer the same maladies as music apps.
If you leave a tab open with a stray ad or video playing, the potential is there for random audio, especially for buggy or malicious websites.
Close out of unused tabs and close the entire browser app if necessary.
6. Other Types Of Apps Can Play Music, Too
Social Media apps like Twitter and Instagram are notorious for playing audio unexpectedly.
Simply scrolling through your feeds might inadvertently trigger blaring music you didn’t expect.
Netflix, Disney Plus, and other streaming services could have a similar effect as music apps if left in the middle of a video.
Something in the OS could trigger audio playback.
Pretty much any app that plays audio could be susceptible to this problem, so if your phone does start playing music on its own, check and see which apps are running in the background.
7. Buggy App
Where there’s an app, there’s a bug.
No code is flawless, and it is entirely possible that a buggy application is causing music to play at random times on your phone.
For example, some iPhone users recently experienced surprise audio problems, and they discovered that the Pandora app for the Apple Watch was actually the culprit.
Pandora has since updated the app, but you can see how one piece of software can cause problems.
In addition, buggy apps with built-in ads could trigger audio at random.
If you’ve installed or updated any apps recently, you might delete them for a few days, one at a time, to see if the problem goes away.
Another option is to delete all recently installed apps and add them back one at a time until the problem returns.
This will help you narrow down the offending application.
8. Outdated Software
Are all of your apps up to date?
Is your phone’s operating system on the latest version?
If not, it would behoove you to install those pesky updates.
Yes, updates take time.
Yes, they can be annoying and introduce changes you don’t like.
However, updates can also solve problems with your phone’s software—problems like unexpected music emanating from the device.
Let’s be clear here.
Your phone or apps falling out of date doesn’t cause random music playback.
If problems exist in the source code, then they have always resided in the software even if they’ve only manifested themselves recently.
It is possible that an updated app might not work properly with an out-of-date operating system (and vice versa).
Nevertheless, developers are constantly pushing out new updates to fix bugs in the code, and they are always improving or even removing features that might cause problems.
For example, iPhones used to have a feature called Shake to Shuffle which did just what it sounds like.
It allowed users to shuffle a playlist with a flick of the wrist.
Although the feature had some fans, it also had the potential for inadvertent shakes which led to music playing or changing songs at undesirable times.
Starting with the release of iOS 8.4 in June of 2015, Apple removed the Shake to Shuffle feature for good.
Another example is Android Auto.
Recognizing that only a small percentage of vehicles had the Android Auto interface installed, Google released a standalone app designed to mimic the car software and provide users with a useful dashboard for navigation and music.
Around September of 2020, about four years after the initial release of the Android Auto app, users began complaining of music randomly playing on their phones even if the car was turned off.
By March of the following year, Google officially addressed the problem with update 6.2.
Keeping your phone and apps is generally a good idea, especially if you are experiencing issues with your phone.
9. Your Phone Needs A Reboot
Yes, phones occasionally need a reboot, too.
iPhones and Androids have robust operating systems that are effective at isolating and containing individual processes.
Even the best-written software occasionally needs a restart.
Methods vary by phone, but if your device is acting flaky, a reboot is a good idea.
10. Phone Storage Is Full
Any computing device, including your phone, can exhibit strange and unexpected behavior if it runs out of storage.
Do you still have photographs from your cousin Joe’s birthday party from five years ago?
Maybe it’s time to offload some of those files to another location.
Make sure your phone has enough space to operate or else weird things, including random music playback, can happen.
Apple created a nifty technology called Handoff that allows its users with multiple devices to continue a task started on one device on a second device.
For example, one could start shopping on Amazon in the Safari web browser on his or her MacBook Pro and then pick up an iPhone and go to the same tab on the phone’s browser.
Handoff works for a variety of functions including many third-party apps.
While the application can be helpful, Handoff can also lead to unwanted audio playing on a device.
If a tab in Safari is playing music on a MacBook or iPad, and then that device hands off the task to the iPhone, you’ll get music playing on the phone.
This is supposed to require user interaction to activate, but as we know, technology doesn’t always work as it should 100% of the time.
If you’re experiencing weird audio issues with your iPhone, and you have multiple Apple devices, you might try disabling Handoff on the phone to see whether or not the problem continues.
For you Android users: there is currently no Handoff equivalent, though Google has toyed with similar features in Phone Hub and Push.
12. App Notifications
Individual apps can have their own notification sounds which could cause music to play from your phone based on notification triggers.
While normal notifications are usually a short ding, bleep, or bloop, longer musical sounds are possible, too.
If you suspect an app or apps are the cause of the music playback but you’re not sure of the culprit, try turning on do not disturb and see if this prevents the music from playing.
If so, the audio might be originating from an app notification.
Check each app’s settings starting with the most recently installed for any alert settings that may be enabled.
13. Siri Or Google Assistant
When you have Siri or Google Assistant enabled, your phone is always listening for commands.
While the technology has improved over the years, both smart assistants still activate accidentally with unintended consequences, including playing music.
Also, don’t forget about third-party apps that support other assistants like Alexa and Cortana, among others.
14. Your Phone Has A Virus
Yes, phones can get viruses, too.
Generally speaking, the malware only afflicts Android phones, so iPhone users are probably in the clear.
Viruses can wreak all kinds of havoc on phones and cause them to misbehave.
This, of course, includes playing random audio at unexpected times.
If you suspect your phone might have a virus (and even if you don’t suspect it), you should install some type of anti-malware software like Bitdefender Mobile or Norton Mobile Security.
15. The Last Resort
If you’ve tried everything and your phone is still misbehaving, a system restore might be in order.
Be sure to back up any critical data either by syncing with some kind of cloud storage provider or by offloading data like photos and contacts to a computer.
Once you’re sure your data is backed up, perform a complete wipe of the phone and start from scratch.
If you do so, and you still encounter random music playback, you might have a hardware issue.
Maybe your digitizer for the touch screen is faulty or your Bluetooth chip is malfunctioning.
Check with the manufacturer of the phone for support on this front.
Unexpected music playback on your phone can be frustrating.
When technology doesn’t behave as it should, we lose trust in the device or the company.
Before you go out and purchase a completely new phone, consider all these possible causes.
If, for example, your Apple Watch is the culprit, buying a new iPhone will do nothing to remedy the problem.
Play Sherlock Holmes and examine the details surrounding the music playing, and you’re sure to deduce the problem.